This Week’s Meal Plan & Today’s Recipes

Meal Plans for 12/28 – 1/3/16 (Yikes!)

So today is my prep dat for things I can do make or do ahead of time. I’ll make a quiche and some black beans and rice to have for lunches on days I don’t want to have leftovers. And I’ll run to the store if there are ingredients that I’m missing.

I’ve planned out all three meals because I’m really good at skipping breakfast which is bad. And I often struggle over what to have for lunch.

So here you go.

Monday
Breakfast: Smoothie (berries, spinach, almond milk, protein powder)
Lunch: Quiche
Dinner: Lentil-Quinoa Soup, Cornbread

Tuesday
Breakfast: Egg White Omelet w/ Veggies; toasted Ezekiel bread
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Beef & Bean Burritos; Homemade Mexican Rice

Wednesday
Breakfast: Smoothie (banana, Greek yogurt, almond butter, honey, almond milk)
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: California Chicken Wraps; Roasted Veggies

Thursday
Breakfast: Hard-boiled egg; turkey sausage; toasted Ezekiel bread
Lunch: Black Beans & Rice w/ Sausage
Dinner: Leftovers

Friday 
Breakfast: Smoothie (strawberries, yogurt, almond milk, honey, protein powder)
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Homemade Pizza (trying a grain-free crust): 1. chicken & spinach Alfredo, 2. beef & mushroom, 3. cheese & cheese smile emoticon
Treat Night: Homemade Ice Cream Sundaes

Saturday
Breakfast: Bacon & Egg Breakfast Pizza (grain-free crust)
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches; Crash Hot Potatoes

Sunday
Breakfast: Smoothie (banana, yogurt, almond milk, almond butter)
Lunch: Leftovers
Dinner: Slow Cooker Bacon Ranch Chicken, Pasta, Green Peas, Roasted Carrots

I will post pics and dinner recipes throughout the week.

Here are the recipes for the two things I’ll make today for lunches. 🙂

Lynne

Easy Quiche

I’ll make this today to have for lunches this week. Hubby will be off so I’ll have to feed him, too. Notice that the word “easy” is in the title (name?) of both recipes. 🙂

Source: allrecipes.com
Prep: 10 min
Cook: 50 min
Total: 1 hr
Servings: 8

Ingredients

2 cups milk
4 eggs
3⁄4 cup biscuit baking mix (I’m trying a grain-free baking mix)
1⁄4 cup butter softened
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 (10 ounce) package chopped frozen broccoli, thawed and drained
1 cup cubed cooked ham
8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a 10 inch quiche dish.
In a large bowl, beat together milk, eggs, baking mix, butter and parmesan cheese. Batter will be lumpy. Stir in broccoli, ham and Cheddar cheese. Pour into prepared quiche dish.
Bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes, until eggs are set and top is golden brown.

 

Easy Black Beans & Rice

Source: wearychef.com
Prep: 5 min
Cook: 25 min
Total: 30 min
Servings: 4

 

Ingredients

 

1 tablespoon olive oil
1⁄4 cup finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic crushed or minced
1 cup white rice I like medium grain
2 cups chicken broth
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄2 teaspoon cumin
15 ounces canned seasoned black beans drained and rinsed
1/2 package smoked sausage or turkey sausage, sliced into “coins”

Directions

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, and sauté 3 minutes, until onion is tender and starting to brown. Add garlic, and sauté one minute longer. Add uncooked rice, and stir and sauté 2 minutes.

Add broth, salt, and cumin. Stir together, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, saute sausage slices in a tiny bit of oil over medium-high heat until browned on both sides. Set aside to drain on paper towels.

Remove lid, stir in beans and sausage, and cover again. Turn off heat, and let stand for 3 minutes before serving.

Menu Planning in the Works

Good afternoon, all!

I’m starting with some menu planning for the coming week and the month of January. Going to use these themes for January. We’ll see how it goes and change it up in February if we have to. (Don’t tell Hubby, but he is going to join me in eating healthier.)

*Meatless Mondays

*Tex-Mex Tuesdays

*”What’s Up?” or “What’s New?” Wednesdays (undecided on name, but it will be new recipes or it might be family member’s choice)

*Throwback Thursdays (leftover buffet night)

*Family Friday (pizza or pasta)

*Soup and/or Sandwich Saturdays

*Slow Cooker Sundays

I have been scouring the internet for new recipes and downloading them to Plan to Eat which is what I use (and love!) for meal planning and am ready to get started. (This is not a usual Sunday and we have leftovers from the THIRD Christmas dinner, so we will actually be having leftovers tonight. Which is fine by me!)

We sometimes have other leftover nights if the fridge is full, but we definitely do Thursdays. Sometimes we have soup twice in one week. (I love soup!) Sometimes I’m really just not in the mood to cook and I order pizza. True confession right there.

What do you think? Do any of you do themed nights? I think it just makes it simpler when you’re meal planning. I know that the last couple of weeks with all the stuff that we’ve had going on that I’ve not been meal planning and man, oh man, can I feel it! And I don’t like it.

Meal planning is one of the easiest ways to simplify your weekdays, in my humble opinion. (That and learning to say the word “no.”)

Let’s give it a try together. I’ll post my week’s menu here as soon as I’m done.

Y’all have a blessed day!

LynneMenu

Introducing: The Schedule

schedule

noun
1. a plan of procedure, usually written, for a proposed objective,especially with reference to the sequence of and time allotted for each item or operation necessary to its completion;
2. a series of things to be done or of events to occur at or during particular time or period;
3. a timetable.
Synonyms: agenda, itinerary, lineup, list, docket, order of business
Antonym: DISORGANIZATION (Preach!!!)
I know some people don’t like the idea of having a schedule.
  • It’s too constricting.
  • It leaves me no freedom.
  • I like to be spontaneous.
  • I’d rather just fly by the seat of my pants.
WHY? A schedule is the opposite of constricting – at least for me. A schedule gives me a sense of peace. Please note that the schedule is written on a piece of paper. It has not been carved in stone. Please also note that the schedule is not full. There are empty spots. Free spots. Room for spontaneity. Room for fun. Room for rest. Room for a nap!! 🙂
And though the schedule does have times on it, most of them are pretty flexible. Unless it is a set appointment (like with the trainer at the gym at 8:30 on Wednesday mornings), most things can be moved around. I think of the schedule as more of a guideline…a general idea of how the days should flow if I want to get things done and not feel overwhelmed. It can also serve as a wake up call. If there are no empty spaces at all, busyness has taken hold of you and you have lost your margin…your free space is gone.
Now, I have two adult children and work part-time outside the home. When I worked full-time, the schedule looked a lot different. When I homeschooled those two now-adult children, it looked different. Everyone’s schedule will look different from yours. And that’s okay. It’s more than okay.
And some days, nothing on the schedule happens like it should. Nothing. That’s also okay. Probably very stressful, but okay. But if you generally keep a schedule and stick to it most days, one day will not throw you into a downward spiral toward total disarray and disorganization. You just get up the next morning and start over.
See that antonym for schedule at the top there? Disorganization. Know what the synonyms for disorganization are? Chaos. Confusion. Disarray. Disorder. Disruption. And my personal favorite: unholy mess. Who wants THAT? Not me!
I have my schedule. I have a chore chart. I use the Daily Docket which is a “to do” list. I try not to do chores on Saturday because my main work day is Sunday and I like to rest up. I usually don’t do laundry on Saturdays. Unless it was raining on Friday and is sunny on Saturday and I can hang my sheets outside.:) Some weeks things don’t go as planned and I spend the whole day Saturday doing laundry and other chores. Then I’m tired. And grumpy. And I drink excessive amounts of coffee. (Excessive even for me!)
If you work full-time, Saturday may be your laundry day. But if you can find a way to do it during the week, do. When I worked full-time and had two under the age of three and a half, I threw a load in before I went to bed at night, then put the load in the dryer when I got up and let them dry while we got ready for the day. Then I folded them after dinner. You have to do what works for you.
Every couple of months, I’ll spend part of a Saturday deep cleaning a particular room. Vacuuming blinds. Wiping down window sills and baseboards. Washing curtains. The things you don’t get to every week and really don’t need to. Occasionally, when Hubby works day shift on the weekend, I’ll have one day of a great cleaning frenzy. He usually comes home to rearranged furniture on those days. 🙂
The point is that everyone needs some sort of “outline” of their days. Some people account for every single minute. Some people just need a list that has five things that just need to get done that day, not in any particular order or timeframe. What works for you is what’s right for you.
When I started working on this new schedule a few weeks ago, I didn’t realize how much I’d missed having one. I had gotten out of the habit and I felt out of control. I was tired. I was grumpy. I was drinking excessive amounts of coffee. Then I sat down and started looking at this…at what matters to me and what I need to get done. I can’t tell you how many schedules I wrote and tossed. Lots. I really, really had to think hard about it. And these pictures show what I ended up with.
The schedule. http://highland.hitcho.com.au/schedule.pdf
IMG_3490-0
The chore chart. http://highland.hitcho.com.au/householdchores.pdf
 Chore Chart pic
The Daily Docket. http://theartofsimple.net/downloads02/
 Daily Docket pic
So here’s my challenge to you. I’ve given you the links to the schedule, the chore chart, and the Daily Docket that I use. You can Google or go on Pinterest and find many (many, many, many) more options. Find one you like. Take some time to think about it. Write down a list of your priorities, absolute must dos (like go to work!), and things you’d like to do. Make several copies of it or write in pencil.  Then make yourself a schedule. You can make your kids a schedule.
When you’ve gotten one on paper, share it with us in the comments. Or you can join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Simplify2013?fref=ts. You should join us there anyway. 🙂
I look forward to seeing what you come up with!
Blessings,
Lynne
(whose schedule indicates that it’s about bedtime!)

Back to School Challenge: Taking Control of Your Family Calendar

Happy Tuesday!

Well, Boy Child has officially flown back into the nest. My sweet Mama was kind enough to remind me that I and two of my brothers did the same. She also gave me some very sage advice: Enjoy them while you have them home. Enjoy them. While they’re home. Sigh. So that got me thinking that we need to get back into the habit of having a family dinner night. Just one night a week where we all sit down at the table at the SAME TIME and enjoy a meal.

So while both of my children are adults, we still occupy the same house and have to intentionally make time for that. It’s hard because we all work – plus Boy Child is going back to school – but I’m going to try. And while we are the typical “Back to School” family with little kiddos, a lot of this post still applies. I originally wrote about this back in August, 2013, but it bears repeating. 🙂

Some of you have kids who have already started back to school. If not, it’s just around the corner. If you’re not affected by the school calendar, you can call this your end of summer challenge. 🙂 I’m going to address something that I see as a real problem with so many people today: busyness. So often, when I ask someone how they are, they respond with, “Busy.” Or tired. Or stressed. They wish they had time to just sit and relax for a few minutes each day. They wish they had time to make dinner at home. They wish they had one night a week that they didn’t have some activity or another to get to.

Guess what? YOU are the genie in charge of your calendar (and, as a result, your kids’ calendars as well, at least to some extent), so you can grant your own wish. So consider what you put on there very, very carefully. When it starts looking a little crowded, remember that it’s okay to say “no.” To activities. To obligations. Yes, even to your kids.  If you’re going to make a schedule and stick to it – not a bad idea at all – then schedule in some down time every day and aim for at least one weeknight free from outside obligations. It is good for you to have some down time. It’s good for your kids. It’s just good for your spouse. It’s good for your marriage. It’s NEEDED for your sanity.

So.. my challenge to you this week is this: Think before you act when it comes to your calendar and your schedule. First, practice saying “no.” It doesn’t come easy to a lot of us. But is really not a bad word. Doesn’t even have four letters. 🙂 Then, when you (or your kids or family) are offered  an opportunity – whether it’s sports, the PTA, a church activity, committees, clubs, etc. – tell the person who asks you that you’ll get back to them. Tell them that you have to check your calendar and discuss it with your spouse.

Do NOT immediately say “yes.” You may say “yes” eventually, but don’t say it on the spur of the moment before THINKING and LOOKING AT YOUR CALENDAR. Take some time to seriously consider what saying “yes” will mean to you. Is it one hour per week for real? Or is it going to turn into several hours per week and even on the weekend? If, after looking at your calendar and discussing it with those who will be affected (your family), make a conscious and thoughtful decision. If it’s more than you want to take on, just say “no.” Just. Say. No. The world will not end. The earth will not tilt off its axis. Someone else will do the job. Really.

If it’s something that will enrich your life in some way or something that you really want to do, then by all means, say “yes.” Just remember: Sometimes you have to say “no” to good things so that you can say “yes” to the best things. If you say “yes” to everyone and everything, eventually something you really, really feel passionate about and want to do will come along and you won’t have time for it. How sad is that?

This is something that I have struggled with in the past. Sometimes I still do. But I have gotten better at saying “no” to people and things. Sometimes there are things I’d like to do but I know that I don’t want to or can’t give it the time it will actually require. It’s better to give fewer things your best shot than to stretch yourself too thin and not be able to give your best to anything. So determine what’s best for you and say no to things that are just “good” or that will just be draining your time and energy.

Get out those calendars.  Take a good hard look at them. Don’t add anything that you really don’t want to do or that is going to be a source of stress and anxiety. With your family, choose a day that will be free of extracurricular activities. (The middle of the week is a good one for that if you can swing it, but it might be Friday or Saturday). Next, add things that MUST be done. I personally think that a great rule of thumb is to limit your children’s extracurricular activities to one – maybe two – in a season/time period, but that’s just me. I find it tiring just to hear about friends’ running their kids somewhere every day of the week. I can’t imagine actually doing it! Be selective. Be careful. Be honest – with yourself and others. Don’t take on more than you can handle. Just don’t.

“A full calendar does not equal a full life.”

Y’all have a great week! And remember: It really, really is okay to say “no.” Really.

Blessings,

Lynne

Schedules Are Freeing…Truth!

MONDAYS! (insert teary face here)

Alarm clocks. Grr. Early appointments. Grr. However, this could apply to any day, not just Monday. As I try to get back “into the groove” where I’m managing my days and they aren’t managing me, I’m back to setting an earlier alarm. I’m also trying my best to put the book away and turn the lamp off no later than 10:00. That’s really hard for me…but, I’m trying.

Normally, I work go in to work on Monday mornings. However, I had some figs that needed to be turned into fig preserves, so I worked this afternoon instead. This is flexibility. Everything still got done, just not in the usual order. 🙂

Here’s my typical week day plan. I’m putting it IN WRITING so that maybe it will stick. Maybe it’s age, but I’ve not been doing this and I’ve been out of sorts. And maybe not very nice. To people. In my house. Sometimes.

5:45 – Rise and try to shine; make bed; have coffee – begin to show a little glimmer of shine

6:00 – 6:30 – Bible study/quiet time (and more coffee)

6:30 – Laundry into washer; go for walk or run (very shiny now!)

7:30 – Laundry onto clothesline or into dryer; shower (much needed at this point!)

8:00 – Breakfast/lay out dinner or put in crock pot

9:00 – Work (Mondays in the office; Tuesday – Thursday – from home)/blog

I try to get as much done by 2:00 as possible. I’m really not much good to anyone after that. That’s when I usually sit down and have my coffee and read for a bit.

Monday nights are for Bible study with my girlfriends.

Tuesday – Friday, I will go to the gym, meet with my personal trainer twice a week, do my work from home, work on my blog (here’s where I’ve been a slacker!), menu plan and grocery shop, and have household chores for each day. This get spread throughout the week so they don’t have to be done on the weekend.

While I try to squeeze in a little quiet/rest time every afternoon,
Saturday is my real day of rest. Since I work on Sundays and have HOME group (small group) in the afternoon, it’s not a very restful day.

All of this is not to say that I have it all together. I just know that I function better with a general plan for how my day will go. I’m flexible. I’m available if someone needs me or just wants to share that afternoon coffee.

I started the early morning rising when the kids were young and we were homeschooling. Early morning was the only time I could squeeze in for myself. When I can be outside during that time, it’s all the better.

Crazy days still happen. They’ll always happen. If you never have a crazy day, raise your hand. (Are your pants on fire??) Just like God gives us boundaries in which we can live freely and blessed, setting boundaries for yourself lets you do that in your day-to-day life.

So it’s now 5:00 and I’ve done this post. I’m off to make dinner and then head to Bible study. I started a new book today, but I’ll try and have “lights out” by 10:00!

Y’all have a great week!

Lynne

P.S. Sharing the household chore schedule tomorrow. 🙂 I’m sure you’re excited!

Menu Planning

Good morning!

At the top of my “to do” list for today is menu planning for next week. I’ve been a slacker for the last couple of months and need to get back with the program. I have discovered about myself that I need at least some semblance of a plan and some structure or I can just sit and do nothing very easily.

Now, I’m not talking about such a strict schedule or structure that spontaneity is eliminated from life. Who wants that? I just find that with some structure and a general plan for my days, I function better. I might even be nicer. 😉

So…that’s what I’m working on today: next week’s menu plan and a new “schedule” since the things you need to do changes when you’re children are adults. Even if they live at home. Still. Or again.

If you have a really simple “go to” meal that your family just loves, please share in the comments. It’s so easy to get stuck in a rut and not try new things. I’m ready to try some new things. I LOVE slow cooker meals especially on work days.  We don’t eat out much so I do cook most of our meals at home.

I’ve also discovered that I can plan dinner but I’m often at a loss for breakfast and lunch. I do that whole “stare into the refrigerator or pantry and it will come to you” thing. And it doesn’t. I just go from one to the other and stare. And then I eat a sandwich because it’s just easy. Since I’m trying to eat healthier and make better food choices, I need some new recipes. So share, share away.

Y’all have a great day! I’ll share my menu plan when I’ve got it ready. I should probably start by taking inventory of my pantry, fridge and freezer, don’t you think?

Lynne

Either-You-Run-The-Day-Or-The-Day-Runs-You

Planning, Laundry, Menus

Happy Friday!
We are going to do some challenges next week – one small one each day. Yay!

For today (and/or tomorrow, wash everyone’s sheets and give everyone in your family some nice fresh sheets to fall asleep on tonight. (Plus, we’re getting this one out of the way before next week.)

If you can hang them on the clothesline, all the better. One of my favorite smells is clothesline-fresh sheets. Ahh!

Also, if you aren’t a meal planner, plan three easy meals for dinners next week. Here’s what’s on my plan:

Monday: Slow Cooker Chicken Marsala, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans

Tuesday: Tacos, Refried Beans, Mexican Rice

Wednesday: Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches, Steak Fries

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: Baked Potato and Salad “Bars”

Saturday: BBQ Sandwiches, Baked Beans, Roasted Veggies

I’ll post links to these recipes in the comments when I get home to my computer. (I’m on the road right now. Not driving!)

Y’all have a great weekend! Get those sheets washed! 🙂

Lynne 

Why a “Schedule” Works for Me

Either-You-Run-The-Day-Or-The-Day-Runs-You

Schedules work for me. Having a schedule is how I survived working full-time with two toddlers at home. Schedules kept me sane when I homeschooled for ten years. Schedules give me a sense of control or focus for my days. The dictionary defines “schedule” as follows:

noun
1. a plan of procedure, usually written, for a proposed objective, especially with reference to the sequence of and time allotted for each item or operation necessary to its completion.
2. a series of things to be done or of events to occur at or during  particular time or period.
3. a timetable.
Please know that having a schedule does not mean being inflexible. Things come up. Life happens. Schedules get interrupted. That’s okay. I like a combination of the above definitions.
1. I like to have it written down.
2. I like to know what needs to be done when.
3. I like setting a timetable but knowing that that’s where the flexibility really comes into play.
When I worked full-time, clearly I had less flexibility. When I homeschooled, there was a little more flexibility but still things had to be done in a timely manner. Now that both kids are grown and much of my day is wide open, without a schedule or plan I could very easily lose myself in a good book and a pot of coffee and never accomplish anything. At all. Zilch. Nada.
“Oh! Is is dinnertime already?”
“What? You need your work clothes tomorrow morning?”
“I have no idea what I did today.”
Now that I’m a relatively free woman, here is how I schedule or plan my days. Again, this is not set in stone. But having a general idea of what should be done and when is freeing rather than restricting. And when my “to do” list for the day is done, it’s done. And when I write my “to do” list, I try to limit it to five things in a day…and only one can be a BIG thing if at all possible.
Here is how my weeks usually look:
Mondays-Fridays (early mornings)
5:30 – Rise and shine (The shining only comes AFTER coffee). My coffee pot is on a timer so that I can smell the coffee when my alarm goes off. Otherwise, my brain doesn’t understand why it should get my body up. 🙂
Between 5:30 and 6:30 when I meet my friend to run, I throw a load of laundry in and do my morning devotion and drink coffee. After running, I come home and eat breakfast. Then I hang out the laundry (or put it in the dryer depending on the weather); put dinner in the crock pot if that’s planned (or put meat to thaw in refrigerator if that’s the plan). If I’m going to work (Tuesdays), I shower in the morning. If I’m going to be home doing chores and such, I wait until chores are done.
My mornings will then consist of daily chores (listed below),  gardening, or work (some work gets done at home), and blogging (I’ve been a real slacker about this lately). After lunch, I try to get a one hour nap (or at least be still and quiet), then read for a while and have a cup or two of coffee. Folding laundry is followed by dinner prep. Dinner is followed by kitchen clean up (my least favorite thing).
I have a laundry schedule, too. Here it is:
Mondays – whites
Tuesdays – towels and underwear
Wednesdays – darks
Thursday – delicates
Fridays – sheets
I don’t do laundry on the weekends unless hubby needs work clothes. (Facing piles of laundry on Saturdays when I was a working mom was the main reason I came up with my first schedule!)
And I have a general chore schedule. (Truth: If you saw the pollen/dust in my house right now, you might think I never clean. Did you know that you can dust and vacuum and then open a window to enjoy a cool breeze and the pollen obliterates any proof that your house has ever been clean??? Also, it’s spring break for everyone else, so why not me?
Mondays – Clean kitchen top to bottom
Tuesdays – Work (no chores except laundry)
Wednesdays – Clean bathrooms; tidy up dining room; plan blog posts (Must get better at this one!)
Thursdays – Dust, vacuum and mop; menu plan for coming week
Fridays – General walk through/straighten kind of day; grocer shop after run (Pleasant for others, I’m sure.)
Every morning – Make the bed
Every evening – Do a 5-minute walk through downstairs before bed, straightening as I go so that I don’t awaken to a mess in the morning.
Saturdays are rest days since Sunday is a work day for me. I just piddle around the house and yard, read, etc. Sometimes I’ll work on a bigger project if I need to, but that’s not the norm. Sundays are definitely napping days! And my HOME group (small group) meets on Sunday afternoons. I almost always have a slow cooker meal going on Sunday morning before I head to church (also my work place).
Evenings are for relaxing, reading, watching television, etc. And I need to be better at putting down my book at a reasonable hour so that 5:30 a.m. doesn’t hurt so much!
So…whether you’re a working or stay at home; whether you have kids or don’t…schedules give some structure to your days. For me, that is important.
If you need help making out a weekly schedule for chores, laundry, etc., just leave a comment and I’ll be happy to help you with your particular situation. 🙂
Have a blessed Wednesday! I’ve got to get to those bathrooms! Yay!
Lynne

Balancing Your Life Isn’t an Easy Thing to Do…But You Can Do It!

Happy Wednesday!

I started to issue a Weekly Challenge this week, but decided there was a more important topic at hand. Don’t worry; the challenge will come next week. But before we get started on that, we need to take an assessment, if you will, of where we (you and me) are at in our lives in general.

As I sat here and pondered what to write about today, so many thoughts and ideas went running through my head. I am trying to not repeat myself, but some topics need to be revisited. And some are a little scary to approach. I never want to offend anyone by implying that what they are doing is wrong in any way or that it’s a “my way or the highway” kind of thing. So if something I write ever comes across that way, please let me know. I may get on my soapbox now and then, but I don’t want to stay there so long that I run people off.

Anyway, I finally decided on balance…that wonderful place that is somewhere between complete chaos and total perfection. When I began this blog, my goal was – and still is – to help you find balance in your life…in all areas of your life. Husband. Kids. Work. Volunteering. Church. Activities. All of these have a place in our lives, but it’s so easy to get overwhelmed and feel like we are spinning plates in the air and at any moment they could all fall and shatter…taking our hearts, our self-esteem, and our tempers with them.

Take some time this week to think – REALLY THINK – about what matters most to you right now at this  stage in your life. Make a list. Really. Like…on paper. Then start to prioritize those things. Are there things that can go? Are there things that need more attention? Once you have your list, determine which five to ten things  matter the very most to you. And I hope that they weren’t actually “things.” Your stuff will not help you find balance. Knowing your priorities in life and basing your decisions on them is the key to balance.

Here are my top eight things:

1. My relationship with God

2. My relationship with my husband and children

3. My relationship with the rest of my family

4. My friendships

6. My church (including my job there)

7. Health and exercise

8. Regular and intentional rest

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen Covey

No one wants to live in complete chaos all the time, though I have met some people who seem to thrive on chaos and drama. I don’t hang around with those people because they make me tired. And sad. Having kids in a house is drama enough (and, no, drama is not limited to teenagers). No one needs other people’s drama creeping into their homes and sucking the joy out of it. And it can happen…little by little so you don’t even notice. Then one day you wake up and you are smack dab in the middle of someone else’s drama. (“Smack dab” – a Southerner’s way of saying you are right in the middle of it, mister!)  Do not let this happen to you. Choose your friends wisely.

Chaos can come in many forms. It could be a messy house where the people who live there spend half their time looking for misplaced things and the rest of their time blaming each other for the mess. It could be a calendar or schedule so jam-packed with activities, meetings, and appointments that you only see your family in the car travelling between those activities and appointments. There are no real conversations because you’re scarfing down fast food from the drive-through you swing by on your way to wherever it is you’re going. So many things can contribute to chaos: caring for young children; caring for aging parents; working extra hours; spending weekends catching up on household chores and not getting rest. And kids…terrible twos, teenagers, adult children still at home. Did I mention those already? The list is probably endless.

On the other end of the spectrum is perfection. Or perfectionists, I should say. Their houses are always spotless. Their kids are always spotless. They make it from Point A to Point B to Point C and are never, ever late. They have jobs at which they seem to excel. They take extravagant vacations. They teach Sunday School and sing in the choir. They drive expensive vehicles and have all the latest gadgets. So what’s the problem? I’m just guessing but I am basing my guess on my own personal experience here. Not that I’ve ever driven an expensive vehicle or have had all the latest gadgets. And Disney World is about as extravagant as I get. But I’ve done the perfect house, long hours on the job, busy stuff. So what do you not see when you look at this “perfect” family? You don’t see the credit card bills. Or the kids’ faces when you drop them at daycare at 7:00 in the morning so you can get to work early and get a head start on your day. (My daughter just recently told me how she felt abandoned when I left her at daycare every morning. Broke. My. Heart.)  You don’t see how tired mom looks when she literally falls into bed at night. You don’t see her mountain of laundry because she keeps it hidden. You don’t see the cracks in the marriage because she and her husband are both so stressed from trying to keep up with the Jones’ that they don’t keep up with one another any more. (Apologies to anyone out there whose last name is Jones. Not saying it’s you.)

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.” – Will Rogers

So where is that balance? Where do we find contentment we so long for? It’s located about halfway between these two extremes. Where there is balance, you’ll find routines. Routines aren’t boring. They’re life savers. You’ll find schedules for household chores. You’ll find kids who participate in one outside activity at any given time, not three or four. There are weekends spent relaxing or doing fun things instead of ten loads of laundry. There are fewer extravagant things because balanced people live within their means. You’ll find calendars that have empty places on them – beautiful, empty places. You’ll find people who can say the word “no” and not feel guilty about it. (Some of you need to practice that word. It’s really easy to pronounce and it gets easier to say…even to your children.)

The definition of contentment is “satisfaction; ease of mind.” It’s the place where you find yourself smiling more often than you frown. You have time and energy to devote to your family in the evenings. You have time to sit and read and enjoy a cup of coffee because there aren’t ten pressing things that have to get done. Like now! You have an undeniable sense of peace in yourself because you know you’ve found your “sweet spot” in life. You may not be travelling to Europe. You may not be driving a fancy car. You may not have the most updated cell phone with all its bells and whistles. (I, for one, could probably never understand how to work all the bells and whistles anyway.) Your mind is at ease…it isn’t in a constant state of busyness and worry. Other people might actually enjoy being around you. You might enjoy being around them.

If you haven’t yet written down your top 5-10 motivators – the things that matter most – do it now. Physically write it on a piece of paper. Put it where you can see it. (If there’s something on that list that shouldn’t be on it, consider how to get it off of there. Pray about it and then take steps to remove it. Replace it with something that really matters.) Don’t miss out on the great things in life because you are too busy doing the good things. (Again, the word is “no.”) The things on your calendar should “fall under” one of the things on your list. If not, well….

…start making decisions – big and small – based on that list. Remember that things that don’t fit in with the things on your list likely don’t belong on your calendar. Remember that it’s alright to say “no” to people. Say it often. Begin to clear your calendar of unnecessary BUSYness. Don’t say “yes” to things just so you can say you have a busy schedule. Some people seem to think that having a busy and packed schedule is some sort of badge of honor. It’s not. They say things like, “I’ll have to get back to you. I have to check my schedule. I’m so busy this week.” Sorry to burst your bubble if you’re one of them. Joy and contentment…those are real badges of honor. Those say, “My life is under control. My house is under control. My kids are happy. My husband is happy. I have my priorities in order and I’m living them out.” That’s a badge I’d gladly wear.

The dictionary defines balance as “mental steadiness or emotional stability; habit of calm behavior, judgment, etc.” Steadiness. Stability. Calm. That’s where you want to be. If you aren’t there yet, I hope that through weekly challenges that will help you bring physical order into your physical chaos, encouraging you to remove things from your calendars that don’t benefit you in your top areas on your list, and – maybe most importantly – carving out some quiet time every day JUST FOR YOU can help you get there. And, yes, it IS okay to take a few minutes for yourself everyday. It’s not selfish. It sanity-saving.

You’ll really like that contented place. Good times are had there. Blessings abound there. If you’re on the path now, I’m excited to see you headed that way. If you’re still wavering about simplifying your life, I am here to encourage you to get on board. Before it’s too late. The time to enjoy life is now!

Blessings,

Lynne

Menu Plan for September 7-13

Happy Saturday, folks!

Hubby is on nights so he’s sleeping. Actually, at this very moment, he’s up and watching football. But he’s supposed to be sleeping. Anyway, I’m sitting here going over my menu plan for next week to see what I need from the store. Thankfully, it’s a short list and I don’t need anything today except an onion.

So, here’s my dinner menu plan for the coming week, Sunday-Saturday. Still going with the September theme nights:

  • Sunday – sandwiches
  • Monday – Crock Pot
  • Tuesday – Mexican
  • Wednesday – Pasta
  • Thursday – Leftovers
  • Friday – Homemade Pizza
  • Saturday – Soup

Here it is:

  • Sunday – Patty Melts, Roasted Potatoes
  • Monday – CP Teriyaki Chicken, Easy Fried Rice
  • Tuesday – Chicken and CP Steak Fajitas, Refried Beans
  • Wednesday – CP Bacon Ranch Chicken Pasta, Roasted Carrots, Green Beans
  • Thursday – Leftover Buffet 🙂
  • Friday – Individual Homemade Pizzas (Me – Roasted Potato, Caramelized Onion, Bacon; Hubby – Beef & Mushroom; Son – Cheese; Daughter – Salad since she doesn’t like pizza
  • Saturday – Chicken & Rice Soup, Baby Biscuits with Herbed Butter

I’ll post my recipes each day. After this week, you’ll have 10-12 recipes to add to your dinner options. 🙂

Do I need to write a menu planning post? I wrote one long ago, but it was..well, long. Maybe I could streamline it to make it easier to follow. If that would be a help to you, please let me know.

Y’all have a great Saturday! Go Gamecocks! Roll Tide! 🙂

Lynne